5 Ways in Which Kimi Raikkonen Could Unsettle Fernando Alonso
With the start of the Formula One season now only a month away, one of the biggest unanswered questions—aside from how reliable the new cars will be—is how the relationship between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will work at Ferrari.
As he enters his fifth season with Ferrari, most consider Alonso the natural team leader and favourite to lead the Scuderia’s title challenge, with Raikkonen returning to the team after a four-year absence.
However, the ice-cool Finn proved during his spell at Lotus that he is still a race winner, and Ferrari boss Fernando Domenicali recently told La Gazzetta dello Sport via Autosport that Alonso may not have things all his own way.
Kimi knows what team he's in, he knows this is a very important challenge for him, he knows he has to deal with an ace like Fernando, with whom he'll have to work in an integrated way.
We have considered the need to pair Fernando with a driver with extra strong motivation and an experience that allows him to manage such a difficult season as this year.
A driver that knows how to manage the pressure of teaming up with Alonso and racing with Ferrari, which is always under the spotlight and if it ends up second it's a tragedy.
Here are five ways in which Raikkonen can unsettle and perhaps even beat Alonso in 2014.
Overplay the Role of the Underdog
Raikkonen may like to take a leaf out of Chelsea football manager Jose Mourinho’s book by insisting he is the underdog in his private team battle.
Mourinho recently played down Chelsea’s tag as title favourites by calling his side a “little horse,” and it may help Raikkonen to do the same to take pressure off himself and put it back on Alonso’s shoulders.
A few carefully chosen words to the press before the opening grand prix of the season could do the trick and start the mind games off in his favour.
Get the Better of Alonso on Saturday
Everybody knows just how stellar a racing driver Alonso is when it comes to race pace and strategy on grand prix Sunday. However, one area in which the Spaniard has struggled over recent seasons is in qualifying.
Mark Webber is one who thinks that qualifying could be one chink in Alonso’s armour that Raikkonen could exploit.
He told Autosport late last year:
Kimi will lift him and help him to get a bit more out of himself on Saturday afternoons. On Sundays there is no question, we know Fernando is a brilliant racer, but on Saturdays Kimi will lift him to another level.
Put in the Extra Hard Graft
Raikkonen is renowned for being the most laid-back of all drivers in Formula One—perhaps even in the history of the sport.
He is known to like a nap before races and often arrives at the grid at the last possible moment. He is also known to have a dislike for simulator work and is not one to delve too deeply into telemetry at engineering meetings.
However, with understanding the intricacies of the complex new engine regulations more important than ever before, it may help Raikkonen to go that extra mile.
If he does put in that extra hard graft, it could help him get one over Alonso.
Play It Cool
As far as personality is concerned, they don’t come much more contrasting than Alonso and Raikkonen.
Alonso is known to have thrown his toys out of the pram when he doesn’t get his own way, and di Montezemolo was forced to publicly scold his star driver back in July after the Spaniard criticised his car’s lack of competitiveness.
When paired with another strong character in Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Alonso found the situation so hard to bear that he left the team after only one season.
In contrast, Raikkonen is known as the “Ice Man” for his unflappable temperament and even has his nickname tattooed on his forearm.
A heated radio exchange in Korea last year proved that Raikkonen can lose his cool, too. However, if the Finn does start to get the better of Alonso, the Spaniard is more likely to lose it mentally than the other way round.
Once Ahead, Maintain the Pressure
If Raikkonen does find himself ahead in the points battle early in the season, it is important he keeps his foot on Alonso’s throat.
As Felipe Massa discovered, Alonso is a formidable front-runner once his confidence is up, and it will be difficult for Raikkonen to come back at him.
However, if Raikkonen does begin to get the upper hand, doubts could well creep into the Spaniard’s temperamental head. He could start complaining about his car, as he did last year, and toys could start to be thrown.
It is important that Raikkonen keeps up the pressure and puts the ball back in Alonso’s court.